I am shaking as I type this. Shaking with emotion, with exhaustion. With relief.
The reason? I have finally spoken to a mental health professional who listened to me with compassion and empathy.
Someone who did not ask me to relive my experiences, unleash the trauma – and then leave me to pick up the pieces myself.
Someone who reassured me that I am not broken.
It should not be this way.
Since Hugo died at the end of March 2014 I have spoken to so many mental health professionals I have lost count.
I have been told my symptoms are a natural response to my birth trauma, to the death of my son.
I have been asked what kind of support I expect by a mental health nurse who knew nothing about HELLP syndrome, the pregnancy illness that nearly killed me and killed Hugo. She just did not, could not understand, and did not take me seriously.
I have been told by a locum GP the reason she got my referral to mental health services completely wrong was because she was ‘too busy’ to read my notes.
I have sensed the incredulity, the ‘oh my goodness’, the ‘where do we even start’ of the person on the other end of the phone. My ‘reward’ for having the courage to call the service for support.
I have been told by a psychiatrist “God will give me another baby”.
I have fled from that appointment in floods of tears with no one from the service bothered about my welfare.
I have been asked whether I really wanted a response to my formal complaint about that incident because the director concerned was rather busy.
I have been told that I will get help maybe, at some point, who knows when – but it will be quicker only if I am suicidal.
I have sat with a well-intentioned work counsellor tearfully explaining my story and after the first hour-long session hadn’t even reached the point of talking about Hugo’s birth. (I didn’t return).
I have been upset, offended and insulted by people who have not even tried to understand my issues reaching instead for assumptions and judgement (included within this number are those who claim to care for the needs of women in maternity services).
I have felt lost, isolated, alone, broken.
I have been delighted to find a book about Birth Trauma, only to get very cross when I realise the book is for women who gave birth at term, and who took their babies home (there is no better or worse of course, but it added to my isolation.)
I have tried to disconnect my brain from the worst of the trauma as a way of coping. The trouble with that is it creates an additional problem because sometimes I wonder whether it was all real and whether I am an awful fantasist.
I have explored all of these things with a psychotherapist at the beginning of this year. I understand, intellectually, why my brain does these things, which helps a bit. I have some coping mechanisms. But I needed more support, especially with returning to work.
I have put up defences for when I speak to people, I want to feel in control, venture only as far as I want to. Those defences are particularly strong when speaking to mental health professionals to the point of belligerence on my part because I got so very fed up and frustrated with everything – what was the point?
I have put up barriers and walls around myself. They are heavy to carry around.
I could feel those walls eroding. The structure was always precarious, built on unsteady ground.
Two months ago, those walls came crumbling down. A meltdown of epic proportions that terrified the hell out of me and my partner.
I am very fortunate to have a proper GP who cares and who listens and who referred me to a service that is helping me.
Finally it is being recognised as a perinatal mental health issue, and being dealt with appropriately.
There are therapy options. The person who I spoke to today will call me by the end of the week to let me know what is next, and how long I am likely to wait (the perinatal connection means it should hopefully be quicker).
I trust her. She listened, and she was sensible.
But it shouldn’t have to be this way. Finally being on the road to getting the emotional care and support I needed in the first place should not be a cause for celebration.
I (and my family and friends) have been through so much.
I want to be in the world, and making a positive contribution. I want to do that for me, for Hugo, for Martin, for everyone I love.
I know life will never be the same again, but I want to overcome it. I do not want post-traumatic stress disorder to rule my life the way it is now. I know there are no quick fixes, and the road ahead will be challenging.
But I am determined and tenacious. I have come this far.
I will get there.
If it feels anything like the relief I feel today, it will be worth it.
Because I – we all – deserve better.